Indonesia is massive, same as is its diving potential.
Some 75% of all species in the Indo Pacific are found within Indonesian waters. Smartly, Indonesia has allocated some of this space to Marine Parks, including Bunaken Marine Park which located off the coast of northwest of North Sulawesi.
Just a short ferry ride west of Manado lays a beautiful, serene, underwater paradise...
If you’re not on a liveaboard, you’ll have to stay on one of the islands in the park, the accommodation on the island comes with different choice, you can find both luxury resorts and budget-friendly homestays, most places are invovled with diving activities, all the hotels either comes with its own dive centre or they will always help you to find a dive centre that can provide diving.
Bunaken Marine Park has something for everyone, however, it's mainly known for wall dives.
You can find tiny, macro invertebrates while muck diving, or you could explore a shipwreck near the mainland. But mostly, there are steep underwater cliffs sheltering hard corals, gorgonians, soft corals, urchins, sea stars, and more sea turtles than you can count or at least than you would want to.
One of these, Laquan II (of III) is even listed as one of the top dive sites in the world. And if you dive there, there is a good chance you’ll be able to see a large pod of dolphins while you’re enjoying some tea and biscuits during your surface interval.
Sometimes, when the currents are right, I’ve heard rumor of spotting not only Mola Mola, but whale sharks and dugongs, not in a big size, though. There are also plenty of tiny sea horses, nudibranchs and octopods, though you’ll have to search for them with a keen eye and you pass by.
Because the currents are strong and unpredictable, most of the diving is drift dives. So, dust off your SMB skills and get ready for a potentially wild ride. The currents aren’t as turbulent as in Komodo, but you still can get caught in a swift horizontal current, potentially even up or down ones, too. Keep alert, but, don’t fear. The dive centres you choose will almost certainly pair you with a seasoned dive guide to keep you safe and to show you all the wonders of the area.
Even the snorkeling in the area is top notch, you can swim through a school of spawning surgeonfish, or get up close and personal with a sea snake coming up for air. And when you look seaward into the blue, there is probably something unexpected swimming along : maybe a reef shark hunting for fish.
When you aren’t in the water, you should probably be eating and tasting all the local dishes.
The tempe, made with fermented soy beans and deep fried is a personal favourite, add some sambol hot sauce and enjoy the fire igniting on your tongue. There are a variety of tropical fruits, so many of which I could never learn all the names, all completely foreign to me. And then of course, the satays in peanut sauce are killer. It’s quite a good thing the food is so delicious, or else no one would ever end their dives and come back to land.
After a long, fruitful day checking animals off your bucket list, lounging by a pool, and shoving your face full of deep fried happiness, have a Bintang or a fresh coconut and relax in a hammock. Watch the sun set or the moon rise (depending on your position) over the ocean and the mangroves, and enjoy your time in tropical paradise. Just, don’t forget the bug spray and aftersun.
@ This article above is written by Roya Eshragh (PADI Instructor #373094), please give respect to her copyright!
This article & photos are not to be reproduced or distributed without written permission of Roya Eshragh.